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CherryPal Unveils Low-Cost 'Cloud Computer'

The $249 Linux-based minidesktop consumes only 2 watts of power, compared with the 100 watts of some desktops.

CherryPal's Low-Cost 'Cloud Computer'

CherryPal's Low-Cost 'Cloud Computer'
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Startup CherryPal on Monday introduced a low-cost, hassle-free "cloud computer" aimed at people who need a PC only for Web browsing, some light document work, and checking e-mail.

The $249 Linux-based system consumes only 2 watts of power, compared with the 100 watts of some desktops. Called the CherryPal, the paperback-size computer has no moving parts. The system contains 256 MB of memory and a 4-GB solid-state drive and runs on a 400-MHz Freescale MPC5121e processor, which is a Power Architecture chip. Apple used Power processors before switching to Intel x86 a couple of years ago.

The CherryPal also includes two USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet jack for connecting to wired broadband, built-in Wi-Fi support, and a VGA connector for a display. The mini-PC weighs 10.5 ounces.

For software, the device ships with the OpenOffice.org office productivity suite, Apple iTunes, and a CherryPal-branded media player and instant messaging client. The computer's OS, open source Debian Linux, is inaccessible to the user. The Mozilla Firefox browser provides the user interface.

In launching the CherryPal, the user is automatically connected to the "CherryPalCloud," the company's Web portal. Accessible through a user name and password, the portal, which is available at no additional cost, offers 50 GB of free storage and handles software upgrades.

The company plans to make money through advertising, which it expects to roll out this year. CherryPal is taking orders now for the mini-desktop, which is scheduled to ship at the end of the month.

No-frills computers, particularly lightweight, sub-$500 notebooks, are growing in popularity among people who want a simple device to browse the Web and check e-mail on the road.

Asus sparked the mini-notebook craze with the introduction of the 7-inch Eee PC in October. Since then, the Taiwanese company has sold several hundreds of thousands of units and said it's on track to sell between 3 million and 5 million notebooks by the end of this year.

The success of the Eee PC has prompted others to follow with their own competing products. Hewlett-Packard, for example, has shipped the Mini-Note PC, and Dell has confirmed working on its own minisystem.

While sales have been strong among computer enthusiasts, the ultra-low-cost notebooks are expected to eventually find their place in the mainstream PC market as an inexpensive option for students and as a second computer for accessing the Web, according to IDC. Worldwide shipments are expected to increase from less than 500,000 units last year to more than 9 million in 2012.

However, the low-cost minis are problematic for computer makers, who fear they could hurt sales of more expensive systems that deliver much higher profit margins. Because of the low average selling prices, IDC predicts revenue from the minimachines to be less than $3 billion by 2012.

In the meantime, the growing market for ultraportable Internet devices has attracted the attention of chipmakers. Intel is attacking the market with its recently released Atom processor, and Advanced Micro Devices is building a low-power chip code-named Bobcat.

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